“It makes no sense to invest in companies that undermine our future. We need an apartheid-style boycott to save the planet” Desmond Tutu, 2014
Fossil Free is a growing international divestment movement calling for organisations, institutions and individuals to demonstrate climate leadership and end their financial support for the fossil fuel industry.
From Tobacco to Apartheid South Africa, history shows us that divestment can make real change. And the fossil fuel divestment movement is now ‘the fastest growing divestment movement the world has ever seen’. Please join us.
Divestment is the opposite of investment. While investment means buying stocks, bonds or other investments in order to generate financial returns, divestment means getting rid of particular stocks, bonds or investment funds that are unethical or morally dubious.
Fossil fuel divestment means to avoid direct ownership of, or commingled funds that include, public equities and corporate bonds of fossil fuel companies. There are 200 publicly-traded companies that hold the vast majority of listed coal, oil and gas reserves.
The Fossil Free campaign is therefore asking organisations to:
- immediately freeze any new investment in the top 200 publicly-traded fossil fuel companies
- divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 5 years
Fossil fuel divestment can be a crucial tactic in the fight for a safe climate future:
Divestment lets us challenge the power of the fossil fuel industry
As Bill McKibbon lays out in the seminal Rolling Stone article ‘Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math’, staying below 2 degrees warming – the internationally agreed upper limit before ‘catastrophic’ climate change – means we can emit 565 Gigatons more carbon into the atmosphere. That’s our maximum budget. The fossil fuel industry already has 2,795 Gigatons on its books, and factored into their share price. That’s five times more than we can afford to burn.
Under their stated ‘business as usual’, the fossil fuel industry plans to take us five times over the safe limit. And twists the arm of government to keep it that way. Science tells us that 80% of known fossil fuel reserves to stay in the ground, but until we challenge the power of the fossil fuel industry, our planet, our future and our democracy don’t stand a chance.
Divestment isn’t primarily an economic strategy, but a moral and political one. As our public institutions take a moral stand and divest from fossil fuel companies, we remove the financial social and political license these companies need to operate.
There are strong financial arguments for divestment
While the moral case for ending support to the fossil fuel industry is irrefutable, the financial argument for divestment is increasingly gaining traction. Simply – if the current share price of a fossil fuel company is based on their reserves, but 80% of these assets are unburnable in a carbon constrained world, the share price is hugely overvalued.
Divestment can win!
From Darfur to tobacco, recent history shows us that divestment can win. Nowhere is this more powerful than the case of South African apartheid, where an international divestment effort played a major role in breaking the back of the Apartheid government and ending racial segregation. By the mid 80s a movement initiated by students saw 155 campuses, 26 state governments, 22 counties, and 90 cities divest from companies doing business in South Africa.
According to a recent report from Oxford University, fossil fuel divestment is now the fastest growing divestment movement the world has ever seen. The stigmatisation process it is triggering also poses ‘the most far-reaching threat to fossil fuel companies and the vast energy value chain’.
Fossil Free is a grassroots movement of dedicated people across the country. A number of organisations also offer their support and leadership:
350.org is a global climate organisation working to build a grassroots climate movement. They are supporting local authority and ‘other’ divestment activity in the UK and co-ordinating divestment campaigning across their global network.
People & Planet is the UK’s largest student campaigning network for climate change and human rights action. People & Planet launched the Fossil Free UK campaign in June 2013 and are leading the campaign to divest universities and colleges from fossil fuels. Students are calling on UK education institutions to move their money out of fossil fuels, stop the greenwash, and support a clean energy future for all.
Operation Noah is an ecumenical Christian charity providing leadership, focus and inspiration in response to the growing threat of catastrophic climate change. They are calling for UK church divestment through the Bright Now campaign.
Medact is a global health charity that enables health professionals to act on the social, political, ecological and economic determinants of health and health inequality. Healthy Planet UK is an organisation of students and young people from across the UK – and some from further afield – who work to raise awareness of the links between environmental change and health and advocate for change. Together they co-ordinate the Fossil Free Health campaign, calling on the UK’s major health organisations to divest from fossil fuels.
Move Your Money is a national campaign to spread the message that we, as individuals, can help to build a better banking system by speaking up, and voting for change with our feet. They run the Divest! campaign to put the big 5 banks ‘on notice’ to get our money out of fossil fuels. Either they divest, or we will!
ShareAction is an organisation campaigning to bring the voices of the many into the investment industry and counter the vested interests of the few who benefit from that system. They run the #IWantToBreakFossilFree campaign to allow ordinary savers to demand an affordable fossil free savings product.
Check out this Beginner’s Guide to Divestment from The Guardian for a summary of the arguments and the campaign so far!